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Next: Psalm 104:29-35
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Next: Psalm 104:16-22
We have had a cold spring in our area. Winter has held on to the temperatures and brought us snow flurries, while the song birds are heralding spring in trees which are budding while flowers have appeared in fields and flower beds.
So when the day seemed even remotely springlike, I took my camera and walked the paths at Cox Arboretum. The weather may not be springing, but I tried to put a little spring in my walk.
I did see my first caterpillar, ant and (my favorite) bee of the season – welcome signs of spring.
In the Orthodox Church we frequently pray for “seasonable weather” which perhaps in our modern minds shaped by media weather reports translates into average or normal weather, though in our hearts we want it to be at least fair weather, preferable good or nice.
But there is an old Arab saying which has it that “All sun makes a desert.” We need the rain, clouds and cool weather to make our gardens grow.
“Unseasonably.” This to me is a strange word in the vocabulary of media meteorologists. In the middle of winter they might say on the coldest night of the year that it is “unseasonably cold.” They seem to mean it is below average in temperature, but in what other season except for winter would we have those bone chilling temperatures?
We seem to have had an unseasonably cold spring this year, though I don’t know if the weather data would affirm that or whether we have been well within what is normal for this time of the year.
A little ditty, I remember from my youth: “Whether the weather be fine, or whether the weather be not, it’s not a matter of weather or not. Whatever the weather, we’ll weather the weather, whether we like it or not.” Searching on the Internet, I see that limerick has many avatars, none of them exactly as I remember it.
You can find all of my photos from my walk at 2018-4-26 Cox Arboretum. Despite the weather, the birds keep singing every morning.
“Your own of Your own we offer to You on behalf of all things and for all things.” (Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom)
“… when You open Your hand, they are filled with good things.” (Psalm 104:28)
“Take delight in all things that surround us. All things teach us and lead us to God. All things around us are droplets of the love of God –
both things animate and inanimate,
the plants and the animals,
the birds and the mountains,
the sea and the sunset and the starry sky.
They are little loves through which we attain to the great Love that is Christ.
Flowers, for example, have their own grace: they teach us with their fragrance and with their magnificence. They speak to us of the love of God.
They scatter their fragrance and their beauty on sinners and on the righteous.” (Elder Porphyrios, WOUNDED BY LOVE, p 218)
You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him, and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and cleave to him. (Deuteronomy 13:4)
I do so appreciate God’s creation, and the chance to walk in it. Because of my spinal stenosis, I consider walking a gift. After three spinal fusions, even the doctor thinks my walking is a miracle. Many of us avoid walking as much as possible – take the car, find the closest parking spot. Walking is a joyfully eucharistic experience for me. Quite literally, I can’t do it enough.
For you have snatched me from death,
kept my feet from stumbling,
That I may walk before God
in the light of the living.
These days I stick to the level paths. Neuropathy from the stenosis and surgeries makes all walking an adventure. It limits where I can go, but I still can enjoy the unexpected in creation. The above two photos are actually reflections in pond water. Scenes reflected in water are, to me, artistry of a mystical kind. The artist is God, reflecting on creation and maybe enjoying His creation as much as I do His natural art.
In the tangle of branches, relieved of their leaves, a female cardinal is hidden, as is the God who created them all. Sometimes we get glimpses of those mysteries normally hidden from our eyes. If we cultivate the eyes of our heart, we sense the world in a totally different way.
Also hidden is an old wooden fence – once it set a boundary, but long since has been abandoned. Nature reclaims its territory. Both sides of the fence are now the same as they were before it was constructed. We spend a great deal of time and energy in our lifetime to set up fences some made of wood, or even barbed wire, but others are social and many are psychological. They too will pass away when the earth reclaims us. Maybe that tells us we put way too much energy building things that will quickly pass away, and will be of no value to us or others in this world or the world to come. The field is naturally full of lessons for life.
It has been a fairly mild and warm autumn for us so far this year. Many people commented that they thought it also was not a colorful fall season. The earth tone hues were there, but the vibrant colors of the leaves were missing. In any case autumn is a season of colors passing away. It is a reminder that life itself is fragile and fleeting.
I saw this goose stretching its wings. Perhaps, evolution in process as it already has its bipedal stance. Or maybe the goose was conjuring up an orchestra to sing praise to the Creator. Or, like me, just enjoying the day, taking a walk.
One evening, I observed the sun, partially hidden behind some clouds with leafless trees in front of them. It really did look to me like Japanese art. Simple and natural. Perhaps missing the crowned crane. Nature can transport the perceptive viewer to anywhere in the world. God gives the sun and the rain equally to all.
Life moves on, and if we are able we keep walking. Autumn and evening are harbingers for those who are aware of their age. But, neither represents the end, but only a temporary, but necessary stage leading to new life. There is a beauty in them which is both fading, and calling to mind the unfading Light of Christ.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
St. Gregory of Nyssa in his book describing the creation of humans, ON THE MAKING OF MAN, gives us a very idyllic picture of the world in the moment before humans arrived on the scene – the calm before the storm.
“Now all things already arrived at their own end: the heaven and the earth (Genesis 2:1), as Moses says, were finished, and all things that lie between them, and the particular things were adorned with their appropriate beauty;
the heaven with the rays of the stars, the sea and air with the living creatures that swim and fly, and the earth with all varieties of plants and animals, to all which, empowered by the Divine will, it gave birth together;
the earth was full, too, of her produce, bringing forth fruits at the same time with flowers; the meadows were full of all that grows therein,
and all the mountain ridges, and summits, and every hillside, and slope, and hollow, were crowned with young grass, and with the varied produce of the trees, just risen from the ground, yet shot up at once into their perfect beauty;
and all the beasts that had come into life at God’s command were rejoicing, we may suppose, and skipping about, running to and fro in the thickets in herds according to their kind, while every sheltered and shady spot was ringing with the chants of the songbirds.
And at sea, we may suppose, the sight to be seen was of the like kind, as it had just settled to quiet and calm in the gathering together of its depths, where havens and harbors spontaneously hollowed out on the coasts made the sea reconciled with the land;
and the gentle motion of the waves vied in beauty with the meadows, rippling delicately with light and harmless breezes that skimmed the surface; and all the wealth of creation by land and sea was ready, and not was there to share it.” (pp 20-21)
St. Gregory pictures the perfect creation, tranquilly settling in from the more violent creation which brought the chaos under control, separating the waters from the land and causing the dry earth to emerge. That tumult and turmoil lasted only a brief moment for St. Gregory – things instantly attained their finished state – trees reaching their heights instantaneously. In his understanding, the first trees grew but not over years but immediately attaining their height. His view is that the world we are in today emerged both spontaneously but not yet in completed form. Things had to grow but did so instantly. Things didn’t have to follow what we now know as the order of nature in those opening days of creation – they were exempt from the laws of nature that we know.
Humans were created last to be the crown of creation – the earth was a Paradise created by God for His human creatures. Humans were not made to wait for the world to emerge – it was all there, perfectly, before humans were placed in it, according to St. Gregory. Humans had nothing else to do but maintain the pacific serenity and blessed placidness. They, however, were about to undue all that God had planned.
You have made the moon to mark the seasons;
the sun knows its time for setting. (Psalms 104:19)
The first day of fall 2017 came on September 22. The Autumnal Equinox marks the beginning of autumn with there being approximately the same amount of daylight and nighttime darkness. We have been in a dry spell with unseasonably warm temperatures. So far the color change has been slow in coming. Though I do see brown, dry leaves on the ground, the trees are still mostly green with color only slowly appearing among the leaves.
“Blessed be the name of God from age to age,
for wisdom and power are his.
He changes times and seasons…
I really do enjoy fall weather – the passing of high humidity days brings a drier warmth and pleasing breezes. I love to see the colors of the leaves as they mark the passing of the seasons. They are a harbinger of winter but I enjoy their current beauty, not what they are pointing to.
For both we and our words are in his hand,
as are all understanding and skill in crafts.
For it is he who gave me unerring knowledge of what exists,
to know the structure of the world and the activity of the elements;
the beginning and end and middle of times,
the alternations of the solstices and the changes of the seasons,
the cycles of the year and the constellations of the stars… (Wisdom of Solomon 7:16)
I walk in the woods, enjoying God’s creation and the changing nature of the world. I have lived through more than half of century watching summer end replaced by autumn’s tones. It is always the same and yet each season is new and wonderful.
Come, let us greatly rejoice in the Lord; Let us shout aloud to God our savior; Let us come before His face with thanksgiving, And let us shout aloud to Him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God, A great King over all the gods; For in His hand are the ends of the earth,
And the heights of the mountains are His;
For the sea is His, and He made it,
And His hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us worship and fall down before Him, And let us weep before the Lord who made us; For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture And the sheep of His hand. (Psalm 95:1-7)
John Donne writing in the 17th Century offers a wonderful reflection on seasons and time as related to God’s own love for His Creation. The version below was adapted to conform to 21st Century spellings and grammar.
“God made sun and moon to distinguish seasons, and day and night, and we cannot have the fruits of the earth but in their seasons.
But God made no decree to distinguish the seasons of his mercies. In paradise, the fruits were ripe, the first minute, and in heaven it is always Autumn: his mercies are ever in their maturity.
We ask panem quotidianum, our daily bread, and God never says you should have come yesterday. He never says you must [come] again tomorrow, but today if you will hear his voice, today he will hear you.
If some king of the earth has so large an extent of dominion in north and south, as that he has winter and summer together in his dominions, so large an extent east and west as that he has day and night together in his dominions, much more has God mercy and judgment together.
He brought light out of darkness, not out of a lesser light. He can bring your summer out of winter, though you have no spring.
Though in the ways of fortune, or understanding, or conscience, you have been benighted until now, winter and frozen, clouded and eclipsed, damped and benumbed, smothered and stupefied until now,
now God comes to you, not as in the dawning of the day, not as in the bud of spring, but as the sun at noon to illustrate all shadows, as the sheaves in harvest to fill all penuries, all occasions invite his mercies, and all times are his seasons. ” (LXXX Sermons; Sermon II)
“… the sun knows its time for setting.
You make darkness, and it is night,
when all the animals of the forest come creeping out.
The young lions roar for their prey,
seeking their food from God.
When the sun rises, they withdraw
and lie down in their dens.
People go out to their work
and to their labor until the evening.
O LORD, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.